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Liberal education is education based on the medieval concept of the liberal arts or, more commonly now, the liberalism of the Age of Enlightenment.

Liberal education is termed "a philosophy of education that empowers individuals with broad knowledge and transferable skills, and a stronger sense of values, ethics, and civic engagement ... characterized by challenging encounters with important issues, and more a way of studying than a specific course or field of study" by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU). [1]

Usually global and pluralistic in scope, it includes a general education curriculum which provides broad exposure to multiple disciplines and learning strategies in addition to in-depth study in at least one academic area.

Liberal education was strongly advocated in the 19th century by such thinkers as John Henry Newman. Central to much undergraduate education in the United States, it was especially conspicuous in the mid-20th century movement for 'general education'. The decline in liberal education is often attributed to the mobilization that occurred during the Second World War. The premium and emphasis placed upon mathematics, science, and technical training seemingly forced the liberal arts to lose its dominant position in higher educational studies

In the early 21st century, many universities and liberal arts colleges have reviewed their curriculums to refresh the liberal education they offer, or to promote broader undergraduate education infused by the spirit of liberal education. This is evident in colleges and universities in the the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, and elsewhere.

In Hong Kong, liberal studies is a compulsory subject in senior secondary school. It is sometimes taught in junior secondary as well. See also 334 Scheme.


See also


  • Andrew Chrucky: "The aim of liberal education is to create persons who have the ability and the disposition to try to reach agreements on matters of fact, theory, and actions through rational discussions." [2].
  • Donald Knuth: "I don't know where I heard it first, but a liberal education is supposed to teach you something about everything and everything about something."
  • Thomas Huxley: "That man, I think, has had a liberal education who has been so trained in youth that his body is the ready servant of his will, and does with ease and pleasure all the work that, as a mechanism, it is capable of; whose intellect is a clear, cold, logic engine, with all its parts of equal strength, and in smooth working order; ready, like a steam engine, to be turned to any kind of work, and spin the gossamers as well as forge the anchors of the mind; whose mind is stored with a knowledge of the great and fundamental truths of Nature and of the laws of her operations; one who, no stunted ascetic, is full of life and fire, but whose passions are trained to come to heel by a vigorous will, the servant of a tender conscience; who has learned to love all beauty, whether of Nature or of art, to hate all vileness, and to respect others as himself."


  • Bibliography on "Philosophy of Liberal Education" - [3]
  • Mortimer J. Adler, How to Read a Book, 1940.
  • Daniel Bell, The Reforming of General Education, Columbia University Press, 1966.
  • Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind, 1987.
  • Harvard University (Paul H Buck et al.), General Education in a Free Society, Harvard University Press, 1945.
  • Robert Maynard Hutchins, The Higher Learning in America, Yale University Press, 1936
  • Everett Dean Martin, The Meaning of a Liberal Education, Norton, 1926.
  • Donald Markwell, 'A large and liberal education': higher education for the 21st century, Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2007.
  • Martha Nussbaum, Cultivating Humanity, Harvard University Press, 1997.
  • Leo Strauss, "What is liberal education?", 1959.
  • Mark Van Doren, Liberal education, 1959.

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